Christian: That’s what I like about you, Victoria. You’re always positive.
Me: No, I’m mostly positive. Until I’m stuck in a corruption scandal. Then I’m so-so.


… “And what makes you think they act the way they do?” asked the patient director on a particularly almost-ready-to-give-up day a few weeks ago. Miguel and Clara (names changed) royally screwed up, and twenty-three clients who could have brought serious income left the workshop feeling cheated and ripped off. While we normally charge $300 per person for the course, they couldn’t reason the group discount, and started fluctuating the prices, and demanded the full $6900. The potential clients spun around and left, annoyed. I had been hustling to convince people to walk to the store, and here was our own team members turning them away.

This was the last thing I needed to hear while we were drowning in debt. Some of the sheer inability to cope with commercialization as well as the resistance to overcome their financial mire had plagued me. It was as if the whole idea of major d-e-b-t didn’t signal red crisis to them at all. The director was asking me to consider, to attempt to get inside the minds of the people and their mishaps. It wasn’t as malicious or as complex as the scandals that happened in Corporate America, but the petty lies and excuses that had accumulated seemed to point to an absolute crisis in ineptitude as far as commercialization went.

I was reminded of the Australian aborigines, or some poor communities in the Philippines. No matter how great and intelligent the ancient culture was, part of me suspected that these contemporary cultures were actually promoting poverty and destitution such that (1) nobody had anything and (2) nobody wanted to do anything about it. Sometimes I wondered if in this region, under-achievement and being a screw up was the point… like poor black ghettos in the United States. I was so exasperated, but I had to chuckle at what it reminded me:

Hehehehe…okay, nothing could be that bad…Mayan indigenous have many redeemable qualities, people are nice and hard working. But dude, I’m just sayin’…day in and day out: they couldn’t work smart, and they’d make excuses for it. Just as the irascible patient tells white lies to the doctor, so too, as I confided with my friends what was happening, they wondered aloud how I could tolerate this stupidity charade for so long… toiling intensively to bring them target revenues that would leak out of our organization again.

…”Well I think Mayans lack a constant diet of role models, healthy organizational patterns, and motivating inspiration, the sensitive ability to prioritize and measure the pulse of the changing business climate seems woefully absent.” I thought about myself… every time I faced difficulties or worries that seem to consume my attention, there are always videos, photos and articles that put my work into perspective, and encourage me to see things more optimistically, and give me a pattern to work with. And it got me thinking about things I didn’t know how to put into people: Curiosity. Passion. Heart. Commitment.

And I thought about growing up in the Golden State, how all those rags-to-riches stories and heroes became part of the mythology that somehow inspired me to believe that big ideas and success were possible for me too. Not plausible, but possible. Las Vegas. The Gold Rush. The Hearst Publication Empire. Hollywood. Silicon Valley and the Internet. The Pacific Railway. SpaceShipOne. George Clooney who grew up in Kentucky. Even that Sriracha Sauce which started with a poor Vietnamese cook, or that mochi ice cream idea that came out of Little Tokyo. Even nutty ideas that seemed not to exist elsewhere: Playboy Mansion. Disneyland. Maybe they were improbable for models of success, but at least we were marinated in the message that we could become something in life, do something that impacted the world, we could think big and do really amazing things if we sacrificed and focused. We questioned. Billionaires? United Nations? Why not me? Why couldn’t I live under two dollars a day in Africa—I had to try, and I did.

And that was a fundamental difference: children in Chiapas didn’t grow up looking at the stars wondering if they could be astronauts or build empire companies. Technically this place (which so much natural resources that the entire Mexican nation sustains itself from drawing from Chiapas reserves) had a history which dated earlier than California, and yet… here we are in the “Third World” while the Golden State had an economy stronger than that of the country of France. I know, you can blame the American CIA for dirty tricks, but there’s got to be something more than that…

Diego, Javier, Gaby and Valerie

Advice About People I’m Writing For Myself

1. Collaboration often involves interdisciplinary teams, and I guess “interdisciplinary” means very different schools of thought. Some people demand order and punctuality, others need wide room for error. When there are preferences, cliques, rash judgments, and uncomfortable moments… most people immediately feel like they are the innocent party of unfortunate things happening to them. Keep in mind if someone is acting up, most of the time they aren’t intentionally trying to make your day suck. Oftentimes, thy truly perceive that some event happened that justifies their response…or…they just might be having an rough day. So give them the break they need. Mostly a lot of people do not feel adequately understood or acknowledged. When dealing with sentient beings with moods and emotions, it is good to *seek* to understand people, what informs why they act that way, and always interpret the best intention they have to offer.

2. When there is a trying circumstance viewed from several different perspectives, there is usually a kernel of truth—but often slightly exaggerated or with certain pieces missing—in what every one thinks of each other. They are simply seeing things through a mental filter. Most of the time when someone sets up a case, you really can’t deny that side of the story. But I notice that once people start framing others in a certain light, they will continue to seek evidence to support that even if the context has changed and the person is no longer acting that way. We forget that everyone is adjusting to a new place, in the process of learning about life, undergoing other issues, minor adjustments, changes…some have an identity to defend, others are more easygoing. We want to believe in characteristics, that that person is just “that way” but it helps me more to believe that someone acted that way under x, y, z context… that when a circumstance changes, a persons actions also change.

3. You must take an active role in gluing together a group, and yes, it’s going to take quite a bit of energy and resources. Letting it “blow over” often doesn’t work. Chasms widen, emotions deepen…like a rip in the mesh, if left alone it actually gets worse in people’s minds, or there is total disengagement or avoidance. A incident can brew into a storm in an imaginative thought proces…that slightest notion that someone doesn’t like you becomes entrenched after a while, and affects the way you act around him or her. Therefore a lot of tiny, thoughtful action has to be taken to keep a happy, cohesive group. Be genuinely warm. Our unconscious gestures and subtle expressions betray what is unspoken and in our minds. Little everyday gestures on your part (such as sharing food, writing a personal note/email, going out of your way to get chai/origami/a special medication shipped in for someone else, or helping someone get something done) shows that the other person matters to you, and it works miracles. Even after unintentional tiffs or little scuffles, it’s important to extend open invitations to people, to especially avoid the (perceived) exclusion of people.I remind myself that our lives are preciously short and shouldn’t be wasted on trivial slights on our egos. Just like lovers need to display tokens of affection, so too, do colleagues and friends.

4. I vote for more discriminating perception, less judgment, bite that tongue before premature advice. It is not that people are cliquey and closed-minded and ignorant. (Okay sometimes just a little.) But more, human beings seek constant reaffirmation of who they are, and they seek the companionship of people who reinforce their identity. And people like who they can laugh and joke with, which is one of the the hardest aspects of any language. On the surface it will look polarizing. But if there is water, and oil, and you want to be the soap, take special care to notice things about people’s identities and appreciate them, to delight in their jokes, support the person they have grown into, the dreams they have. Affirm who they have become, and then talk about differences. Because so often, we take things personally when opinions seems to threat who we are at the core.

5. Honor what feelings others confide in you. I really like one-on-one talks or groups of three, and I like to help people do very ordinary things, spend time going to the market or helping with their chores. If there are chasms and you want someone to open up, it’s unhelpful to never be there and suddenly blurt: “How are you doing?” and expect them to engage in a real conversation (Automatic one-word dismissive response: “Fine. Good.”) Or announce, “We need to have a private talk,” (It gets people’s worst defenses up.)


“Say” John Mayer

Take all of your wasted honor, every little past frustration
Take all your so called problems, better put ’em in quotations
Say what you need to say

Walking like a one man army fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment knowing you’d be better off instead
If you could only say what you need to say

Have no fear for giving in, have no fear for giving over
You better know that in the end, it’s better to say too much
Then never to say what you need to say, again

Even if your hands are shaking and your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing do it with a heart wide open
Say what you need to say


Spanish Words of the Day: “balbuceos” mutterings | “torbellino” whirlwind